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Secondary Citizenship

Changes to the Citizenship National Curriculum in Secondary Schools in England

The Citizenship programmes of study set out the teaching requirements that must be taught to pupils at key stage 3 (age 11-14) and key stage 4 (age 14-16). Schools decide how to organise their curriculum to address these statutory teaching requirements. The DFE published a revised National Curriculum  on 11 September 2013 for first teaching from September 2014. 

ACT guidance materials  support the revised National Curriculum for Citizenship 2014.

The revised programmes of study are set out below. Schools should note that every section of the revised programmes of study is statutory and must be considered when planning citizenship provision.

Citizenship National Curriculum Programmes of Study for teaching from September 2014

Purpose of study

A high-quality citizenship education helps to provide pupils with knowledge, skills and understanding to prepare them to play a full and active part in society. In particular, citizenship education should foster pupils’ keen awareness and understanding of democracy, government and how laws are made and upheld. Teaching should equip pupils with the skills and knowledge to explore political and social issues critically, to weigh evidence, debate and make reasoned arguments. It should also prepare pupils to take their place in society as responsible citizens, manage their money well and make sound financial decisions.


The national curriculum for citizenship aims to ensure that all pupils:

  • acquire a sound knowledge and understanding of how the United Kingdom is governed, its political system and how citizens participate actively in its democratic systems of government
  • develop a sound knowledge and understanding of the role of law and the justice system in our society and how laws are shaped and enforced
  • develop an interest in, and commitment to, participation in volunteering as well as other forms of responsible activity, that they will take with them into adulthood
  • are equipped with the skills to think critically and debate political questions, to enable them to manage their money on a day-to-day basis, and plan for future financial needs

Key stage 3

Teaching should develop pupils’ understanding of democracy, government and the rights and responsibilities of citizens. Pupils should use and apply their knowledge and understanding while developing skills to research and interrogate evidence, debate and evaluate viewpoints, present reasoned arguments and take informed action.

Pupils should be taught about:

  • the development of the political system of democratic government in the United Kingdom, including the roles of citizens, Parliament and the monarch
  • the operation of Parliament, including voting and elections, and the role of political parties
  • the precious liberties enjoyed by the citizens of the United Kingdom
  • the nature of rules and laws and the justice system, including the role of the police and the operation of courts and tribunals
  • the roles played by public institutions and voluntary groups in society, and the ways in which citizens work together to improve their communities, including opportunities to participate in school-based activities
  • the functions and uses of money, the importance and practice of budgeting, and managing risk.

Key stage 4

Teaching should build on the key stage 3 programme of study to deepen pupils’ understanding of democracy, government and the rights and responsibilities of citizens. Pupils should develop their skills to be able to use a range of research strategies, weigh up evidence, make persuasive arguments and substantiate their conclusions. They should experience and evaluate different ways that citizens can act together to solve problems and contribute to society.

Pupils should be taught about:

  • parliamentary democracy and the key elements of the constitution of the United Kingdom, including the power of government, the role of citizens and Parliament in holding those in power to account, and the different roles of the executive, legislature and judiciary and a free press
  • the different electoral systems used in and beyond the United Kingdom and actions citizens can take in democratic and electoral processes to influence decisions locally, nationally and beyond
  • other systems and forms of government, both democratic and non-democratic, beyond the United Kingdom
  • local, regional and international governance and the United Kingdom’s relations with the rest of Europe, the Commonwealth, the United Nations and the wider world
  • human rights and international law
  • the legal system in the UK, different sources of law and how the law helps society deal with complex problems
  • diverse national, regional, religious and ethnic identities in the United Kingdom and the need for mutual respect and understanding
  • the different ways in which a citizen can contribute to the improvement of their community, to include the opportunity to participate actively in community volunteering, as well as other forms of responsible activity
  • income and expenditure, credit and debt, insurance, savings and pensions, financial products and services, and how public money is raised and spent.

Attainment targets for citizenship

By the end of each key stage, pupils are expected to know, apply and understand the matters, skills and processes specified in the relevant programme of study.


Citizenship National Curriculum Programmes of Study August 2007 to August 2013

This programme of study has been disapplied. However schools are requried to continue to make provision for Citizenship in their curriculum.

The importance statement

This statement sets out the focuse of what pupils study in the subject of Citizenship during key stages 3 and 4.

'Education for citizenship equips young people with the knowledge, skills and understanding to play an effective role in public life. Citizenship encourages them to take an interest in topical and controversial issues and to engage in discussion and debate. Pupils learn about their rights, responsibilities, duties and freedoms and about laws, justice and democracy. They learn to take part in decision-making and different forms of action. They play an active role in the life of their schools, neighbourhoods, communities and wider society as active and global citizens.

Citizenship encourages respect for different national, religious and ethnic identities. It equips pupils to engage critically with and explore diverse ideas, beliefs, cultures and identities and the values we share as citizens in the UK. Pupils begin to understand how society has changed and is changing in the UK, Europe and the wider world.

Citizenship addresses issues relating to social justice, human rights, community cohesion and global interdependence, and encourages pupils to challenge injustice, inequalities and discrimination. It helps young people to develop their critical skills, consider a wide range of political, social, ethical and moral problems, and explore opinions and ideas other than their own. They evaluate information, make informed judgements and reflect on the consequences of their actions now and in the future. They learn to argue a case on behalf of others as well as themselves and speak out on issues of concern.

Citizenship equips pupils with the knowledge and skills needed for effective and democratic participation. It helps pupils to become informed, critical, active citizens who have the confidence and conviction to work collaboratively, take action and try to make a difference in their communities and the wider world.'

Key concepts

The key concepts in the citizenship curriculum provide a framework to organise your citizenship teaching and learning. Pupils need to develop understanding about these concepts in order to deepen and broaden their skills and knowledge. The key concepts may have most impact on pupils when they are introduced within the context of an issue they are investigating. For example, a good way to help pupils understand the key concept of justice is likely to be through investigating and taking action on an issue of injustice.

The key concepts in citizenship include:

  • democracy and justice
  • rights and responsibilities
  • identities and diversity.

Key processes

These are the essential skills that pupils need to learn to make progress in the subject These skills may be built most effectively when they are part of a learning experience that is relevant to young people, draws on appropriate knowledge and enables them to take action. The challenge for citizenship teachers is to enable pupils to develop the higher-order thinking skills of synthesis and evaluation, which are essential for informed and effective action.

The key processes in citizenship include:

  • critical thinking and enquiry
  • advocacy and representation
  • taking informed and responsible action.

Range and content

This section of the programme of study outlines the breadth of the subject on which teachers should draw when teaching the key concepts and key processes. Teachers have the flexibility to select content which is relevant to their pupils’ needs and the context of the school.

The range and content at key stage 3 includes:

a. political, legal and human rights, and responsibilities of citizens
b. the roles of the law and the justice system and how they relate to young people
c. key features of parliamentary democracy and government in the constituent parts of the UK and at local level, including voting and elections
d. freedom of speech and diversity of views, and the role of the media in informing and influencing public opinion and holding those in power to account
e. actions that individuals, groups and organisations can take to influence decisions affecting communities and the environment
f. strategies for handling local and national disagreements and conflicts
g. the needs of the local community and how these are met through public services and the voluntary sector
h. how economic decisions are made, including where public money comes from and who decides how it is spent
i. the changing nature of UK society, including the diversity of ideas, beliefs, cultures, identities, traditions, perspectives and values that are shared
j. migration to, from and within the UK and the reasons for this
k. the UK’s relations with the European Union and the rest of Europe, the Commonwealth, the United Nations and the world as a global community.

The range and content at key stage 4 includes:

a. political, legal and human rights and freedoms in a range of contexts from local to global
b. the roles and operation of civil and criminal law and the justice system
c. how laws are made and shaped by people and processes, including the work of parliament, government and the courts
d. actions citizens can take in democratic and electoral processes to influence decisions locally, nationally and beyond
e. the operation of parliamentary democracy within the UK and of other forms of government, both democratic and non-democratic, beyond the UK
f. the development of, and struggle for, different kinds of rights and freedoms (speech, opinion, association and the vote) in the UK
g. how information is used in public debate and policy formation, including information from the media and from pressure and interest groups
h. the impact and consequences of individual and collective actions on communities, including the work of the voluntary sector
i. policies and practices for sustainable development and their impact on the environment
j. the economy in relation to citizenship, including decisions about the collection and allocation of public money
k. the rights and responsibilities of consumers, employers and employees
l. the origins and implications of diversity and the changing nature of society in the UK, including the perspectives and values that are shared or common, and the impact of migration and integration on identities, groups and communities
m. the UK’s role in the world, including in Europe, the European Union, the Commonwealth and the United Nations
n. the challenges facing the global community, including international disagreements and conflict, and debates about inequalities, sustainability and use of the world’s resources.

Curriculum opportunities

The curriculum opportunties for citizenship must extend beyond the classroom, to the culture of the school and the wider community. The best citizenship learning occurs when what is taught in the curriculum enables students to have an impact on the wider community and reinforces (and is reinforced by) the culture of the school. The curriculum design to aim for is one that combines this rich mix of learning experiences for all students, supplemented by a range of optional enrichment activities.

Key points relating to assessing, recording and reporting to parents

The programme of study, as outlined above, started in September 2008 with all year 7 pupils. This cohort will be the first pupils to experience the new programmes of study. From the summer of 2011 pupils have been assessed using the new attainment target and their level of performance should be reported to parents as part of annual reporting of the subject. The level descriptions for citizenship are published with the key stage 3 programme of study.

From September 2009 the new key stage 4 programme of study for Citizenship became statutory for all pupils in year 10 and alongside it there was a full course GCSE in Citizenship Studies.

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